THE AFL has further tightened Match Review and Tribunal guidelines around head-high bumps in a move that will penalise players with suspensions, regardless of their intent to contest the ball.
Under the amendments released on Monday, the League has ruled that the potential to cause serious injury must be factored into the determination of impact in cases where there is head-high contact.
The shift, which was forecast by new football operations boss Brad Scott last month, means cases involving careless conduct and high contact will usually be met with a minimum one-match suspension instead of a fine.
The MRO and Tribunal were previously only required to give "strong consideration" to the potential to cause serious injury, meaning high bumps could still be graded as low impact and draw a fine.
Under the new guidelines, high bumps will usually draw an impact grading of at least medium, "even though the extent of the actual physical impact may be low".
"The clear message we're giving to clubs and players is that if you contest the ball and you're late and you hit the opposition player in the head with a bump, you're going to be in trouble," Scott said last month.
Among seven amendments to the AFL and AFLW Tribunal Guidelines for 2022, guidelines for intentional contact with an umpire have also been adjusted to make harsher penalties possible.
The Tribunal will now be instructed to "have regard to the number elements of the offence (aggressive, forceful, demonstrative and/or disrespectful) which are established in determining the sanction". Harsher penalties can be imposed as more elements are established.
AFL and AFLW players may also be charged with careless contact with an umpire if they hold an opponent in an umpire's path, drawing a fixed financial sanction.
There have been two amendments to tripping guidelines, with the MRO now able to sanction players for careless trips. Incidents that result in only minor contact can also now be classified as 'attempted tripping'.
The AFL today wrote to all clubs to advise the AFL Commission had accepted the MRP and Tribunal recommendations put to it this month following an in-depth review of both the AFL and AFLW systems.
There have been changes to the structure, with long-serving chairpersons David Jones and Ross Howie replaced for AFL cases by Jeff Gleeson QC, who has served as the AFL counsel in Tribunal cases.
Renee Enbom QC has been appointed deputy chairperson and will chair AFLW Tribunal hearings.
Under the new structure, the three-person jury will now be made up of the chairperson and two other jury members, replacing the previous format of three former players.
The League has determined that video evidence can only be presented to the Tribunal for incidents that occurred in the past two seasons, making clear that the jury will not be bound by previous decisions.
The cost of Tribunal and Appeal fees has been set for the AFL and AFLW competitions, with penalties for unsuccessful hearings included in the football department soft cap.
Unsuccessful AFL Tribunal cases will cost $10,000, while partially successful cases will draw the same fee but with $5,000 of that sitting outside the soft cap.
Successful Tribunal cases will result in a full refund of the $10,000 fee.
Unsuccessful Appeals Board hearings will draw a further $5,000 fee, included in the soft cap.
Successful appeals result in a full refund of both the $5,000 fee and the initial $10,000 Tribunal fee.
All fees for AFLW hearings are half those set out for AFL cases, with the same implications for the soft cap.